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Xinna Talks on Mongolian Language Issues

Sept 21, 2010
New York



Ms. Xinna at her souvenir store.


The following is an English summary of the statement of Ms. Xinna, wife of ethnic Mongolian political prisoner, on Mongolian language issues:

Recently there have been a series of online discussions regarding Hu Zonghua, new Party Secretary of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, who has been meeting with key personnel of the Education Bureau to explore the possibility of replacing the Mongolian language as a medium for education with Chinese under the slogan of “responding to the requirements of a new era”. Like many other Mongolians, I am very concerned about this issue and interested in finding some official document on this matter. Unfortunately no such document has been made available to the public.

But it is not important whether such a printed document exists. Its implications are profound. This [language] issue has always been a very sensitive issue. If you look back in history, to the 1981 and 1982 student movements, they had already touched on this topic. We can see that language is a sensitive issue to the Mongols. It is considered sensitive because it is linked to the rights of the Mongols, especially to rights that have been taken away. As you all know, one of the four main components of ethnic identity is a common language. If a people loses its language, then that people will gradually cease to exist. Some argue that it [elimination of language] is an inevitable result of Utopian Socialism where all peoples will use a single common language.

If this idea [changing Mongolian language to a Chinese one] is proposed by the Mongols, then we can consider it as a voluntary change. However it will be completely different in nature if it is proposed by the Chinese, because this means the rights of the minority have been violated. Using Mongolian language as a tool of learning is naturally part of the rights of Mongols.

I have been reading a book entitled “The True Story of the Cultural Revolution”. According to this book, Mongolian students argued about the Mongolian language education issue in their “Opinion Regarding the Communist Party Central Committee’s No.28 Document”. They insisted that “the ethnic autonomy policy of the Party guaranteed that ethnic minorities have the right to use their native language and have the right to develop their own culture and education, and this right shall not be violated”. All these are the basic rights of ethnic minorities. If the demand for these basic rights is considered a “too-far-out” requirement, then how can the ethnic autonomy rights be guaranteed?

This naturally explains the anxiety of our fellow Mongolians about their future. In recent years, the Chinese authorities claim that economic growth has been unprecedentedly rapid and GDP is reaching that of Hong Kong. If there really is such  economic growth then it has been achieved at the price of opening up the Mongolian people’s land, plundering Mongolian people’s natural resources and destroying the Mongolian people’s ancestral territory. For example, the whole land of Shiliin-gol league has become open mine fields and the entire territory of Uushin Banner has become a web of natural gas pipe-lines.  The Mongolians have been forced to sacrifice their right to open space and freedom of livelihood. A friend of mine told me that a livestock grazing ban was recently imposed in Darhan-muumingan  banners, Shiliin-gol League, and Bairan Right Banner.

Space and land have become a major issue as the direct result of livestock grazing bans and language is another issue due to forced urbanization. In cities and urban areas certainly Mongolian language will lose its ground and will gradually die away.

Heated discussion of this issue indicates that there must be a move by the Government to carry out this new policy. It is understandable that Mongolian people are concerned about this issue.

Mongols are aware that it is vitally important to preserve their language by sending their children to Mongolian schools. However, the social environment and harsh reality forces them to make decisions different from what they wish to do. They must deal with ethnic discrimination their kids would face in employment. For example, after graduating from Mongolian schools, Mongolians students always have difficulties finding a job since almost all jobs are controlled by Chinese. Many companies publicly state that “No Mongolian Students!” in their job postings.

It is extremely unfair that no Chinese is requested to learn Mongolian whereas all Mongolians are forced to learn if they want to survive on their own land. Whoever asks the Chinese to learn Mongolian has been and will be labeled as “separatist” who is attempting to destroy the “ethnic harmony”. One of the major crimes of Ulaanhuu, founder of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region during the Cultural Revolution was that he asked to the Chinese to learn Mongolian as Mongols are asked to learn



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